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Pasquotank farmers get glimpse of new corn hybrids

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Ron Heiniger, a crop scientist at N.C. State University, talks to farmers during a tour of farm research sites in Pasquotank County, Friday morning.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Area farmers are looking for ways to reduce weather-related stress on their crops as they deal themselves with the stress of low prices for farm commodities.

Crop scientists Ron Heiniger and his son, Ryan Heiniger, talked to farmers about some of the new corn and soybeans varieties being developed as the growers toured variety trial sites and other crop research projects in Pasquotank County on Friday.

About 15 farmers participated in the tour.

Jeff Spence, who farms in the Newland area, said hot, dry weather in May didn’t ruin the corn crop but is likely to diminish how much corn will be harvested per acre.

“We don’t have the corn we’ve been having,” Spence said.

Spence said he started planting his corn in mid-April.

Even with the weather challenges that farmers have faced this growing season the corn crop isn’t expected to be a disaster.

“We’re going to have an average crop, probably,” Spence said, though he cautioned he won’t know for sure until the combine moves through the field at harvest time.

Spence wouldn’t make any prediction about the prospects for this year’s soybean crop.

“It’s too far out to tell,” Spence said, noting there’s still a lot that could happen between now and the soybean harvest.

Spence said all farmers are concerned about low prices right now.

He wouldn’t comment on what effect he thought retaliatory tariffs by China or President Donald Trump’s overall trade and farm policy were having on farm commodity prices.

“I’d rather not get into the political side of it,” Spence said.

Ron Heiniger told the group of farmers assembled along the side of Body Road at a field on the Charles Gray and Sons farm that hot weather in May was one of the difficulties for this year’s corn crop. He said one of the things to look for in the new corn hybrids is greater tolerance for higher temperatures.

Al Wood, a field crops specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service in Pasquotank County, said he appreciated having variety trial sites in the region. It’s good for area farmers to know how the varieties are doing in the soil and weather conditions they have here.

Wood thanked the Gray farm for hosting variety trials over a number of years.

Ryan Heiniger, official variety testing program director at N.C. State University, said 53 percent of the corn hybrids in this year’s test are brand new. The testing is taking place at nine locations across the state, including in Pasquotank County, he said.

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